I have a lot of things to be emotional about these days. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always been someone who values emotion, no matter how difficult, as it’s there to make me pay attention. While trying to process my present emotions, I keep going back to an old, private writing of mine from 2010 titled, “Pocket of Grief”.
I have this little pocket of grief that is a part of me. It’s where I hold the pain from whatever may be having an affect on me at the time; from lost relationships with loved ones to death of friends and family members. It’s there for me to acknowledge but not to let consume me. I'm not concerned about emptying the pocket as it has become a part of who I am. But right now, I feel that pocket may be overflowing.
Since becoming a mom two years ago, I can’t seem to hear or read any stories that involve the abuse or death of a child. I think this is a pretty “normal” response for new moms, but I actually weep when I hear such ordeals. This is probably one reason why my job as an addictions counselor was more stressful for me after giving birth.
The latest grief added to my pocket is about the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. I realize violence is something that occurs on a regular basis over there and I cannot bring myself to hear too much about it. I don’t think it’s choosing to live in denial, really, but I think it’s that I don’t know what to do about it. A rally was held in our city and while I wanted to go, I’m actually glad I didn’t (toddler nap time). My good friend, Patricia Sexton participated in the rally and wrote about it. And what I read from her experience, I would not have been able to stay. Her blog post was enough to bring me to tears.
This morning I read about more violence by the Boko Haram group in which according to the CNN report, "Even nursing mothers had their male infants snatched from their backs and shot dead before their eyes," the local leader said. What are we supposed to do about this? Now that I’ve read this I am affected by it, my pocket of grief overflowing and I can’t do anything with this information accept cry about it.
So I write.
There are so many stories like these around the world that are untold. As we hear more about them, how do we keep our grief from overflowing?
Last night, I watched my son play with plastic milk bottle caps. He was so focused on sorting them from one cup to another. When it got too easy using his fingers, he chose to use a toy spatula from his play kitchen. I studied his face: his eyes darting from one cup to another, his lips parting and then breaking into a smile at a successful drop of the cap into a cup, then his shriek of joy in getting all the caps sorted. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of how much he has grown into a little person. My baby is now a little boy.
And then I thought of the stories of abuse I read about in the news.
The Santa Barbara killings that occurred a few weeks ago absolutely broke my heart for everyone involved. Not just sorrow for the victims, but also for the boy who struggled with a severe personality disorder and mental illness. And, for the families.
I can’t help but to think about the many stories I heard in my career; the stories of drug overdoses, of suicide. Suffering. Addicts wanting their high more than the love of their family or friends. These people started out as babies. Babies who had a mother or mother figure in their life who fought for them to thrive, who had hope that they would find peace and happiness in their lives.
Yet the baby is now an adult and the adult is in love with their addiction. And when that happens, nothing else can get in their way. They hurt and the hurt piles up because they know deep down their family hurts now, too. But they are too far gone into their addiction so they keep going… and they refuse any sort of love the family has to offer. Add a personality disorder or other mental health issue to it and the idea of help becomes hopeless.
The baby is gone just like that.
I think about the life these mothers give- the mothers of Nigeria, the mothers of the deceased in CA, the mother with a child struggling with illness- they bring a miracle into this world; they sacrifice to ensure their babies survive… and then lives are gone.
My pocket of grief overflows thinking of all the struggles that are out there in the world. We’re all searching for the answers, searching for help and trying to maintain hope. None of us really know what to do; we have ideas, but we don’t really know how to help.
I wish there was more I could offer. All I have to share is my pocket of grief.
Whether you’re in Nigeria, South Korea, Ukraine, the US, or New Zealand… I hope your pocket of grief doesn’t overflow and that you find a way to remember that at one time, we were all just babies.